Monday, August 25, 2008

Career Insight: Patience Pays

Last week I spent a lot of time with a very close friend of mine, a man I respect and admire, but whose career has not progressed according to his expectations. Incidentally, this is the same person whose career concerns I previously blogged about here. At one point I asked my friend what lessons he takes away from his inablity to get his career moving in what he thinks is the right direction. Without hesitation my friend said "patience pays".

My friend has gone through a series of sideways positions, and he is unsure of how to get his career moving up again. He told me how he recently caught up with two guys who worked with him as peers in two of his previous companies. One worked with my friend eight years and three companies ago and was a solid but not outstanding programmer. That person now manages the company's research and development. Another former colleague, who worked with my friend as a peer in his previous position, was recently able to transition from being a customer service engineer into being an application engineer and thereafter made the transition to R&D. My friend pointed out that the transition into application engineering is something he tried to achieve in his previous company, but failed.

Asked how they were able to make these transitions, my friend answers clearly and succinctly: "they were patient". They did not quit when they weren't given what they wanted, they stuck it out. They built relationships. They networked. They looked for the opportunity and when it showed up, they took it. My friend, on the other hand, asked to move to a different position and when he was turned down, left the company to seek opportunities elsewhere. He still performs the duties of a customer service engineer. The lesson my friend draws: "It may be a gamble - because you never know if the opportunity will materialize - but being patient and sticking it out with one company can generate very good results".

That's one on the things I love best about my friend. He never points a finger at anyone else. He accepts full and complete responsibility for his life. He is not afraid of admitting his mistakes, and when he thinks he made one, he makes an effort to learn from it.

As far as I am concerned, this is the mark of a mature and well balanced individual. I am hopeful that with this kind of healthy and introspective attitude, my friend's career will once again get moving in the direction he wants it to go.


frugal zeitgeist said...

I went through this, too. I spent several valuable years in a role that was neither challenging nor fulfilling, with no hope of advancement. A golden opportunity finally came, though. I didn't have the hard skills they wanted, but thanks both to solid performance in the blah job and effective networking, management decided to take a chance on me. Two years later, I got an enormous promotion and am now running my division.

Very best wishes for your friend.

Shadox said...

That's yet another good example.

Sometimes those who are too eager to change positions and get ahead set themselves back. Of course, sometimes moving on is exactly the right thing to do. The trick is telling them apart.

Jim said...

And sometimes staying put doesn't work.
My wife was in a dead-end job, working with people who weren't looking out for her at all.
She's changed jobs 3 times in the last 5 years and has tripled her salary. Her last move was actually a step down title-wise, but for more money.
My trajectory has been different... 6 years at one company, 6 at another...

Shadox said...

Jim, of course, you are right. My wife is also a good example - she worked with one company for 9 years, then left and literally doubled her income. The trick, as always, is knowing when to play and when to fold.